School Choice & Charters

Aid Project Targets Gulf Coast Schools

October 07, 2008 2 min read

As Roman Catholic schools and parishes across the Gulf Coast region struggle to recover from Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, the National Catholic Educational Association has launched a fundraising campaign to help out.

The Washington-based organization said it is asking the estimated 6.3 million students enrolled in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs around the country to donate $1 each to help their counterparts in the Gulf region.

“Some of these folks are suffering for the second or third time around” from recent hurricanes, said Karen M. Ristau, the president of the NCEA. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, her group launched a similar campaign, which ultimately brought in $1.7 million.

The NCEA notes that many Catholic churches and schools in Texas and Louisiana have been hard hit by the recent storms.

In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, many schools lost power for extended periods after Hurricane Ike, though nearly all were open as of last week.

Galveston Catholic School, which serves 260 students in grades K-8, is closed, and parents have been asked to enroll their children in another school for the time being, the NCEA said. The school is expected to be without power for three to four months. Efforts are under way to reopen the school in a temporary location.

Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston on Sept. 13 as a Category 2 storm, with winds reaching 110 miles per hour.

Some schools and families in the Diocese of Beaumont, which includes nine counties in Texas near the border with Louisiana, also suffered damage from Hurricane Ike.

Nancy Collins, the superintendent of schools for the diocese, said the schools—five elementaries and one high school—were closed for 10 days as a result of the storm. It caused damage estimated at $25,000 to $30,000 per school, she said, with roof leaks and water blown in through doors and windows.

The storm has taken a far greater toll on some families.

Frances M. Droddy, the principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Orange, Texas, a pre-K-8 school serving 208 students, said that 17 students have been displaced, because of either partial or total loss of their homes. Two school employees also lost their homes, and two others are temporarily displaced from their homes because of severe damage, she said.

Money from the NCEA campaign will be available for various purposes, from replacing school supplies to providing tuition assistance.

“We will let those schools decide what they need most,” Ms. Ristau said.

A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2008 edition of Education Week

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